Dear Mark Zuckerberg:

It’s clear you are having some PR issues with the changes you’ve made to Facebook.

Folks like Leo Laporte deleted their accounts. Jason Calacanis is making page view budgets because of these problems. Jeff Jarvis is taunting you on Twitter. People are posting your supposedly private texts from when you were a teenager (I don’t even know if those are real, but they are getting reported as if they are).

You can ignore these issues. They will go away, especially next week when Google gets aggressive at its I/O event and releases a ton of stuff that shifts the pundits attention back to Google’s real market power.

The ones you can’t ignore?

The common feeling that we can’t trust Facebook anymore.

See, I don’t have that problem. I never +did+ trust Facebook, especially after your systems deleted my account a couple of years back. I knew then that we were buying into a system that was not trustworthy. Or, at least, not trustworthy in the way we’ve come to trust software and companies in the past.

That said, I still use Facebook. Most of the people I’ve friended over the years are still using it. And I keep putting more data into it. 400+ million people do. And more, I bet, are coming every day.

Here’s what I would do:

1. Split Facebook into two pieces: one private, one public. We already sort of have that. My private Facebook account is at http://facebook.com/robertscoble while my public one is at http://facebook.com/scobleizer
2. Make the private piece much easier to understand and setup. The New York Times actually exposed something gone very wrong at Facebook: you have too many privacy settings and too many choices. Boil them down to a few choices.
3. Put a third party in charge of “verifying” that privacy settings actually work. For instance, I’m pretty sure you are getting bashed for privacy in some areas wrongly. But the market simply doesn’t believe you on privacy, so get someone who can verify for us that when you set something to be seen only by your mom that it, indeed, is only viewable by your mom.
4. Do a better job of explaining why you are putting more and more emphasis on the public part of Facebook. I know that you get a lot of cool new features when you share your life with people, but most people don’t understand that because most people have never lived in public view before. So, SHOW THEM and show them better than you have been to date. For instance, what happens if you click “like” on a restaurant on Yelp? What does that enable? Or, what happens when you listen to music on Pandora and let your friends see that?
5. Use video to explain what Facebook is. Video is harder to read, yes, but it’s more emotional and it’s easier for you to explain and show some of these features. It’s amazing to me that you haven’t been in the public view since you’ve made these announcements. Get onto Techcrunch TV. Have lunch with Kara Swisher and Om Malik Invite me over your house. Demonstrate that you are public yourself and willing to stand up for the changes you’ve made. VentureBeat is giving you some similar advice.

Or, well, you can just ignore them all. I don’t think it will slow down Facebook at all. Most of the people I’ve talked with really don’t care about this issue or have already figured out what they are going to do about it (I handled it by changing all my privacy settings to as public as possible, others by deleting their accounts, yet others, like my wife, carefully went through the privacy settings and changed them to what they wanted).

Anyway, good luck, I’ll be in Omaha interviewing Matt Mullenweg about the future of WordPress at the Big Omaha conference and maybe I’ll ask him what his advice for you is.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

99 thoughts on “Dear Mark Zuckerberg:

  1. Good! So now we know what he is doing during the two and a half hours each day that he doesn't post to his public account. And me who though he was sleeping…

  2. Martyn,

    Scoble is among the handful of all-access bloggers (the names are in his post): most weren't so impressed when he casually adressed French Minister for Finance (Scoble, you are not *that* famous) but he can undoubtedly call anyone in IT and be heard. Look at Zuckerberg's squint to him on this video http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/6341975.

    Among that handful, he is “the nice guy”, the one asking questions and listening to the whole answer, with a loving, broad smile, and the (one who will pretend to be the) average user: in the middle of a PR crisis, that's the perfect guy to go to, to be given the opportunity to explain something as delicate as the current misunderstandings. He's not the go-to guy to reach the majority of Facebook users (mainstream media would be) but the majority of the protests coes from geekier users, so he's a good bet to start apologizing and announce changing enough kinks to appease the crowd. Most others would most likely have a field day challenging Zuckerberg's ethics.
    I don't think Scoble is the best to discuss with about what is the problem: he is a very public persona with presumably no connection or photos that could damage his reputation (at least, any further than he willfully does himself), he has very uncommon concerns about how to use Facebook, etc. but those decisions about what to change will happen internally, and the all-hands meeting. Scoble offers PR help: how to announce those changes; his spontaneous, shaky screen-side videos of CTOs are very humanizing: he could make Dr. Evil look like a clumsy geek apologizing for typo-ing out the Earth into ashes.

    (Scoble, sorry for high-jacking your blog there—but introductions need to be done by a third party, and Google sucks at putting things into context.)

  3. A private and a public Facebook? I don't think so. Who (apart from you, of course!) has the time to maintain two Facebook accounts? Who has the time to switch profiles, or mark something private or public every time they share something? And BTW, I already have a public Facebook – it's called Twitter.

    Having said that, Facebook is between a rock and a hard place. They have to either charge a fee to use the service (and lose users in the process) OR constrain privacy to monetize through other means. I'd rather pay $10/month to use Facebook, block Farmville messages, and keep my privacy. How many others will do the same?

    @shyamster

  4. Susan, I disagree that they “had to” go in this direction. In fact, one could argue that they could have continued to tout themselves as the most trusted/private place on the Web, where you and your friends can hang out in relative peace.

    They already had all of the targeting data on you they ever really needed, and even the new Like buttons could have been launched in a way that was going to be a bit less open, while still getting the targeting data. Most Web site owners would still be installing it if it just said “x-hundred / thousand” people Like this…” without potentially handing over the social graph to that site as well. Etc.

    But somehow Zuck wants to be more like Twitter, and indirectly challenge Google through a new form of search. But engagement on Twitter has been dropping in the last 6 months, so it isn't at all proven that people long term want (or at least can sustain) the more high-rate real-time flow without getting burned out.

    Go to Refollow.com sometimes and check for >90 days abandoned accounts in your follower list. You may be shocked how many people have dropped out, and I am not talking newbies either. People that had really used and invested time and energy into Twitter.

    And Twitter has yet to prove that ads against Twitter Search and beyond will ultimately work, while Facebook Ads have been generating $2/unique/year for them vs. Google's $18.

    In my mind Zuck and co. with this latest iteration have been building a “solution” without fully understanding the problem. The problem is that most people/users just don't want to see more ads, however targeted, unless they are in buying mode, which they're largely NOT in a social context.

    Question is, if FB later opts for an Adsense like ad “Trojan Horse” through the OpenGraph embeds on sites, would site owners acquiesce in a cut of the PPC revenue any smaller than what Google pays for Adsense. Because if it's the same cut, then FB is back to square one, as Google makes a fraction on Adsense compared to Adwords search ads due to the revenue share (70-80% payout).

  5. “Or you can just ignore them all” is a terrible idea, Robert. You underestimate the ability of the “unwashed masses” to put their collective foot down when enough is enough.

    Disenchantment and distrust of Facebook is no longer exclusive to nerds. My local Fox affiliate ran a story on Diaspora the other night, for chrissakes; that's just one step below Regis and Kelly having a vim vs Emacs argument on the WTF-scale. People care about this, and ignoring them isn't going to keep working.

  6. Watched it live: amazing video — I was half petrified at your disregard for everyone there, and half thrilled at your dare, excited at how all the grown-ups stared at your adolescent misbehaving, scrolling around; good thing you ended that renewed “journalist only” format. Although, you needed a stand badly: motion sickness was killing me. Ever used a string with a screw attached in the stand bolt of your camera, as a mobile, flexible stand?

  7. Great discussion between you and eschnou, although… Would you know of any references explaining why it's so hard to scale?

    I'm assuming Google staffed great coders on Wave, so it seems that it is that federation (or platforming, or opening) makes privacy too convoluted to scale, no matter how good you are. I simply have a hard time making sense of why.

  8. I am curious to know what Mark wants Facebook to be. The problem is that if he wants it to be the next Google and twitter and foursquare and myspace (okay, scratch that), he is going to lose focus and end up making a mess. The Facebook of today is extremely different from the one I signed up for. The “trust” factor is so low that every time a big update rolls out, I go to my profile and start adjusting the new settings. I almost expect things to be less private as time progresses.
    Most recently, I have been plagued by Facebook to update my alternate email address and location and networks. Why?. Why does Facebook want more from me than what I am willing to give?

  9. LoL… the dispute with Martyn Chamberlin is fantastic…
    Anyway, to come back to the topic, Facebook needs to embrace open and transparent standards such as http://www.dataportability.org/ and, furthermore, help them to develop. FB will probably not, since has demonstrated being bully and unfair to it's members (I'm a member too, but I'm getting more and more of the idea of dropping my private account) and this will lead to being superseded by new competitors that will (in a long term vision).
    I'm really confident that a Freedom movement will suceed in advertise crowds the importance of Ethical services.

  10. Well… you officially work at RackSpace, you used to work for Microsoft… I'm not sure what Facebook has to do with that really. But personally knowing Zuckerberg would be pretty neat I guess.

  11. I wonder where MySpace is in all this? Now's the time for them to strike back, and give the world a better, more adult, version.

  12. I know Mark personally and am one of his Facebook friends. I've spent hours with him in the past, and can get his attention. You might do some google searches on me to see what I do.

  13. I have one account, but two instances. One is private, one is public. This is done for brands and celebrities and others who want a very public page.

    1. so why say you put your profile in public while you have another private? Your purpose is distorted …

  14. Rather than create 2 completely separate versions of Facebook, FB really could easily put it to a straight, per user “vote” on their next login, here’s how:

    1) “I want everything to be completely private, no one but my friends sees nothing. 2) “I want everything to be completely open. 3) “I want to muddle through with the detailed settings somewhere in the middle,which will be my responsibiliy.

    — And then arrange people’s detail settings accordingly. My bet would be on about 80% opting for “private”. Either way, everyone could be happy with their choices again. But of course FB is not going to do that. That would be giving too much control/mastery back to the users…

    Facebooks bizarre problem seems to be its insistence that everybody should be/think the same.

    And unless there later is a trojan horse ad system to be launched through “Open” Graph (after site owners have gotten so used to the extra traffic they may be getting from FB, even though click-through rates from within FB are still very low at this point, and thus would be less likely to resist by turning it back off), there really is no compelling reason for FB to open things up so much:

    They already had most of the data they ever needed to target you with Facebook Ads. Why spread things around so much?

  15. Zuckerberg may be listening but until this afternoon, we won't know what *actions* Facebook will take. And yes, Google is next in the spotlight, but Google has a lot more friends and at least has *some* competent management. I've seen no evidence of actual competence from Facebook the past week.

    Yes, I deleted my Facebook account, so it's of little interest to me what happens at this afternoon's meeting. But it's not just about privacy and it's not just about trust and it's not just about Facebook. The whole industry is at risk, and I don't think it's going to be pretty. Nobody is too big to fail any more.

  16. I completely agree with Carla “Maintaining privacy expectations in this age is very much a pipe-dream”. We need to realize that posting on the web…is just going to be public. If you want to keep it private, keep it entirely off the web entirely. In this day and age with everything search able…what's the point of trying to maintain privacy?

  17. Robert, Some very wise advice here for Mark to come out into the open and address the mounting concerns of many Facebook users – if he doesn't then defections will increase and Facebook might ultimately find their users dwindling rather than increasing. Personally, I only joined Facebook recently and in the midst of the furore about privacy so I knew the score but I can understand how longtime users will feel betrayed, having created their space in the expectation that access would remain privileged.

    If Mark listens and responds accordingly then maybe he would be in line for the Scoble Prize :-)

  18. What about all these Facebook alternatives I've seen recently? Sites like Diaspora seem to also be riding this wave of Facebook discontent. I can't tell if this is happening because are pissed at Facebook over privacy or if its some sort of personal attack on Zuckerberg (shessh 90% of what Calacainis wrote seemed personal to me). Am I seeing things here?

    And, you know I think the privacy thing has been done to death – there is a picture on Facebook of me in my underwear – its in there. Good luck finding it though. People need to untag, and move on. :)

  19. Great post Scoble but I think Facebook is beyond the concerns of the tech elite. The digerati can move on to Diaspora while the rest of the world continues to poke, update their statuses and share pictures on Facebook. I think it's important that some continue to hold its feet to the fire over privacy though, but I don't know how big of an impact that will have.

  20. You're one of 400 million people… you SERIOUSLY think he'll read past the first sentence? He's running a multi-billion dollar company with little or no time to see what bloggers are writing… unless you're a super super high profile guy (Are you?)

  21. I disagree. In the end it is a messaging service. Pushing social notifications to inboxes of people following some rules defined by privacy and user choices (filtering). Not so different than email.

  22. XMPP does. No clue if we will achieve anything with onesocialweb but we are trying and would love to have this kind of discussion with you about this. Ping me if you are around SF and having some time next week.

  23. 'Split Facebook into two pieces: one private, one public.' – great advice! The analogy in the microblogging world is more or less existing: Yammer for private (ok, corporate; but still private); and Twitter for public. Easy to understand and believe, and used in that way more by increasing number of people.

  24. I think maintaining privacy expectations in the modern age is a bit foolish. Facebook (or any other social network that emerges) is going to face pressures from advertisers to increasingly open up their data, http://www.dirtyphonebook.com and others enable people to write anything about anybody without any consent, and Google is like a big elephant, it never forgets. Maintaining privacy expectations in this age is very much a pipe-dream. The world has changed. Deal with it.

  25. Let me take another example then: email. Don't you believe we can have a social networking equivalent to SMTP and POP3 ?

  26. Wave does NOT scale. Everyone who works at Google knows they spent the last eight months trying to scale Wave up to support the measly demand they already had. Again, give me a break. It's the slowest piece of crap I've ever used.

  27. Use video to explain what Facebook is.

    That's already being done… at least to an extent. Probably not enough to satisfy your demands though.

    I've been seeing a need for a long time for a new network to come out. Absolutely, things need to be simpler. If a network comes out with the simplicity of Twitter with the graphics of FriendFeed with the in-depth atmosphere of Buzz with the functionality of Facebook, it will probably blow the current ones out of the water. Unfortunately, it won't happen any time soon, unless we get someone like Jason Fried onto it. Most people just don't get it.

    It's cute writing to Zuckerberg like this, but honestly he'll probably never even see the link. There's growing resentment/discontent, there is no question about it.

  28. lol I was not commenting on the product and agree with you :-) Just the fact that federation does scales, even in a realtime scenario like Wave. I don't see the flow of data an issue compared to web load, API load, RSS polling, etc…. This is just a techie issue that can be solved. The challenge is in the business model behind opening up.

  29. Good ideas here Robert! Facebook implemented changes too quickly and startled everyone. I've know for a long while they HAD to go this direction in order to truly own the web, which appears to be their primary goal.

    I don't post overly personal items only on ANY website. I recommend that everyone. The internet is NOT your diary :) think about that … it makes sense. People should never trust the “internet” with private details.

    The problem for Facebook is that they started out as a private platform, inviting folks to post private things and then they ripped the doors off and left their customers standing their bare naked – not cool. ;)

    Facebook really needs to address the overly complicated privacy settings as well. I graduated from UCLA law school and those setting actually look like they were cooked up from a policy board meeting… no joke. The UI is atrocious and confusing… needs overhaul asap.

    Thanks … always good to read your blog Robert :)

    @SusanBeebe
    http://SusanBeebe.com

  30. Well, the old idea of “no publicity is bad publicity” is probably working in Facebook's favor right now. I imagine something big enough will have to happen with Facebook in the coming weeks that will take the focus off Zuckerberg personally.

  31. Agree with most of the post but I have to disagree with the “Video is harder to read, yes, but it’s more emotional” part.

    Would agree if it was somebody else but Mark Zuckerberg talks and moves like a robot, video would not help him much. (My remark Is not supposed to be a joke, the “Zuckerborg” term fits him perfectly)

  32. The problem we have with giving Facebook the benefit of the doubt is that most folks don't have two Facebook accounts. They have one that they set up as private and intended to keep private. Facebook intentionally forced it to public despite assurances that they wouldn't do so. Even Zuckerburg's own account became public for a period of time. And Facebook made it next to impossible for mere mortals to get their privacy back. That was intentional and looks pretty clearly to have been done with carefully engineered obfuscation to force folks into shifting from private to public accounts. That's why everyone is pissed.

  33. I would challenge that, both on the technical feasibility and privacy issues. Wave is a good example doing this in a scalable and privacy aware way. I'm expecting lots on Buzz next week. And by the way.. don't forget to catchup with me for a onesocialweb demo next week :-)

  34. I certainly wonder what Zuckerberg's headspace is right now. Does he actually want advice on this or is he taking an arrogant position? He should be more public about this stuff, video is a great way for him to reassure those that think Facebook “is” the Internet..

  35. That ain't gonna happen. Nice pipe dream, though. Even if Zuck wanted it to happen the data flows are too huge and the privacy contracts too convoluted. Some things will be federated over time, because of the opening up of the API, though. Check out http://graph.facebook.com/scobleizer and you'll see the data you can federate already.

  36. Another idea for them: open up for federation. 99.9% of the users won't switch and the few who care can move on to other implementations and other servers that they trust better while still be in a position to communicate with their Facebook friends. You are so big anyway that you have nothing to loose. You will always stay the GMail of social networking. Opening up now, with a protocol you design and which fits better your architecture will also put you in a better position than waiting for Buzz, joindiaspora, onesocialweb, etc…. to actually succeed,

  37. The public profile vs private is a good idea. I left Facebook because you only have one real choice, public. In order for that profile to be of benefit you will use your real name. . . so people can find you and vise verse. Creating an account that makes a private and public profile so you can manage friends into two (or more) spaces while having a “front door” entrance via your real name (company) would work much better. . .

  38. Robert, the most pertinent advice for Mark would be “Don’t abuse your users’ Trust” ..

  39. oh dear, here you admit that your personal account is not as personal as this, you have two accounts, you cheat!?

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